Barry University’s men’s basketball program is Division II, but it is acting bigger than that.
Start with coach Butch Estes, who is in his second year at Barry after a lengthy career in Division I that included a head-coaching job at Furman and assistant posts at the University of Miami, Rice and East Carolina.
Estes has a roster that includes six former Division I players. And Barry’s schedule started with a pair of exhibition games at Division I powers Louisville and Florida. Barry lost 91-71 at No.8 Louisville and 79-70 at No.7 Florida.
Surprisingly, Barry outrebounded Louisville 53-41 and Florida 42-39.
Barry made the Division II NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2010. But Estes is trying to pump the brakes a bit on skyrocketing expectations.
“We’re returning a good team,” Estes said of the roster that includes four starters back, “but it’s important not to get complacent.
“It made sense to play teams of that caliber [Louisville and Florida] to help our players refocus. That level of competition tends to bring out the best in people.”
Estes said he realized Barry would be on the wrong end of some mismatches in those two games, but the Bucs picked up financial guarantees and other incentives to play.
“In terms of highlights on ESPN and things of that nature,” Estes said, “we will probably get more exposure for those two games than we will the rest of the season.”
On the court, Barry will miss its one graduated starter, Magne Fivelstad, who averaged 11.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. He was Barry’s most efficient player because he led the team in field-goal (57.9) and free-throw percentage (83.2). He also got to the line more than any other Barry player, making 124 out of 149 foul shots.
The good news for Barry is that the backcourt remains intact. Senior point guard Deric Hill averaged 10.8 points and led the team in assists and steals. Senior shooting guard Juan Ferrales led the team in scoring (15.7), three-pointers (83) and three-point percentage (42.6).
Power forward Yunio Barrueta, a 6-6 junior, led the team in rebounds (9.0) and was second in scoring (14.1). Small forward Savad Garner, a 6-2 senior, is undersized but averaged 9.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Look for one of two new arrivals — transfers Travion Leonard and Jevoni Robinson — to break into the starting lineup.
Leonard, a 6-8, 280-pound junior, came over from Fordham. Robinson, a high-flying 6-8, 225-pound senior, came from North Carolina State. They join other Division I transfers on the team — Hill (FIU), Barrueta (East Tennessee State), Ferrales (FIU) and 6-1 junior guard Anders Haas (Albany).
The bench will be led by Haas, either Leonard or Robinson and 6-5 sophomore wing Adrian Gonzalez, who shot 54.5 percent from the floor last season and was fourth on the team in scoring despite averaging only 20 minutes per game.
Haas is probably the best shooter on the team, but Estes believes he has four other players who can make more than 40 percent of their three-point attempts: Ferrales, Hill, Barrueta and sophomore reserve guard Arie Williams.
Overall, Barry appears to have all the pieces needed to make a long run in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m just concerned about overconfidence,” Estes said. “We have a very confident team, but I also want them to buy in and be unselfish because teams will be gunning for us.”
▪ BARRY UNIVERSITY: Coach: Butch Estes; Last season: 19-9 overall, 9-7 (NCAA Division II); Top players: Juan Ferrales (6-2, Sr. SG); Deric Hill (5-9, Sr. PG); Yunio Barrueta (6-6, Jr. SF); Noteworthy: The Bucs, who made the NCAA tournament last season, have six Division I transfers, including Jevoni Robinson, a 6-8 forward from North Carolina State.
▪ BROWARD COLLEGE: Coach: Bob Starkman; Last season: 19-9, 7-5 (junior college); Top players: William Cruz (5-10, Soph. PG); Mikhail Rolle (6-3, Soph. SG); Ben Antoine (6-6, Soph. PF); Noteworthy: Also watch for 6-7 freshman forward Kevin Mickle, who transferred from Division I Central Connecticut State.
▪ FLORIDA MEMORIAL: Coach: Kenny Bellinger; Last season: 7-23 (NAIA); Top players: Samuel Dorismond (6-2, Soph. G/F); Clive Smith (6-3, Soph. SF); Davonte Byrd (6-9, Fr. F); Noteworthy: FMU is looking to replace four key seniors from last season.
▪ JOHNSON & WALES: Coach: David Graham; Last season: (14-16 overall, 6-12 (NAIA); Top players: Rafael Nin (6-8, Sr. C); Luke Walters (6-1, Sr. G); Frank Bennett (6-0, Jr. G); Noteworthy: JWU graduated seven seniors including their leaders in scoring (Myles Smith), rebounds (Quentin Tate) and assists (Mack Scott).
▪ MIAMI DADE COLLEGE: Coach: Stephen Cowherd; Last season: 21-9 (junior college); Top players: Shane Rector (6-1, Fr. G); Anthony Tompkins (6-2, Fr. G); Marvin Jean-Pierre (6-3, Fr. G); Noteworthy: After earning a berth in the NJCAA Region 8 tournament for the first time since 2009, three MDC players signed with Division I universities: Darius Perkins (Utah State), Prince Cooper (Louisiana-Monroe) and Michael Calder (Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne).
▪ NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Coach: Gary Tuell; Last season: 13-17, 8-8 (NCAA Division II); Top players: Chris Page (6-5, Jr. G); Casey Carroll (6-7, Jr. F); Brian Cahill (6-4, Sr. G); Noteworthy: All five starters return, and NSU brought in six newcomers, including top recruit Troy Spears, a 6-4 freshman guard from Indiana.
▪ ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY: Coach: Patrick Gayle; Last season: 26-7, 16-2 (NAIA); Top players: Chuckie Becton (6-3, Sr. G); Michael Walker (6-4, Soph. G); Lorel Beckford (6-4, Sr. F); Noteworthy: The Bobcats have made the NAIA Round of 16 playoffs three consecutive years but must replace all-conference guards Floyd Battle and Kevin Hincapie.